Is The Call Of Duty Series A Rip-Off?

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Whenever the fall season rolls around, gamers the world over knows it means two things: the Holiday shopping season and yet another Call of Duty release. Yes, Call of Duty’s annual release schedule has become so predictable, so automatic, and so assured that you can almost use it as an annual benchmark for things that happen in your life. Kid’s birthdays and school recitals can be remembered in relations to a Call of Duty release date.

If a high caliber (pun intended) first-person shooter’s release has become so frequent and so predictable, you know something is wrong. What is wrong with this picture? First of all, you only need to ask the guys behind the Bioshock series how much work, attention to detail, and story telling goes into a high-quality first person shooter (FPS) game. Sadly, it seems Activision, the megagame studio behind the yearly Call of Duty onslaughts have totally missed out on the memo that you should only release a game if there is something completely new in the game.

The annual releases make it clear to many FPS veterans who instead of filling a genuine need, Activision is just out to milk the huge installed base of FPS fans Call of Duty commands. Indeed, the series itself manages to squeeze hundreds of millions of dollars from its fan base every year. And this is not counting the online Call of Duty gaming components. Maybe the question critics should ask themselves: if I had a money machine that barfs out money every year, would I unplug it?

Still, you couldn’t fault some FPS fans for shaking their head when there doesn’t seem to be any deep difference between one COD installment and another. Sure, there are some minor tweaks, but given the huge amount of cash fans are expected to pay, shouldn’t there be more? In fact, the tweaks and changes seem so shallow that many critics are saying that the games are mere re-skins.  In other words, Activision has a platform and just applies different skins to it on an annual basis.

This critique might seem to be taking things a bit too far and it might be a bit too harsh but it does have a ring of truth to it. No wonder there was such bitterness on the blogosphere against COD when it was caught in a marketing war with Battlefield 2.

Activision should reconsider their annual rollouts. You can only go to the well so much before it starts drying up. Game fans are not dumb. After all, it was the wave after wave of crappy games in the mid 80s that resulted in the industry crash that brought Atari down to Earth. Don’t think for a second that the same market dynamics that were at play back then aren’t in play now. Consumers aren’t dumb. You can only milk them for so long before they move on or give up.

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